The World Faith Blog

World Faith: The Interfaith Service Network

Delaware sees interest in interfaith dialogue, Muslim man discusses similarities among faiths 3 August , 2011

BRANDYWINE HUNDRED, Del. — Not many Muslims get invited to be fill-in preachers at Christian congregations, but that’s what happened to Semab Chaudhry at Silverside Church.

Last month the pharmaceutical audit manager stepped into the pulpit for a Sunday talk explaining the reverence that Islam gives to figures such as Mary, Jesus, Abraham and Moses.

“It’s remarkable how much commonality there is among our faiths,” says June Eisley, a member of the Brandywine Hundred congregation. “I wish all Christians could learn this.”

As Chaudhry, his wife, Rabia, and their three children begin their observance of Ramadan they are full of hope for renewal and drawing closer to God, as this is the holiest time on their religious calendar.

They are working on values that Chaudhry observes devout Christian and Jewish friends working on, too. They are values of gratefulness, kindness, respect and generosity. And, Chaudhry says, each of the faiths condemn cruelty and hypocrisy.



Our Daily Bread: Interfaith Relations In Every Day Life 25 July , 2011

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I spent countless summers as a child in Bangalore, India ,the city of my parents’ pre-immigration past. Bangalore is a breezy, tree-laden city, formerly used by colonial-era civil servants to indulge in retirement. After Indian independence, the city retained a small-town feel, becoming a quiet refuge for an array of religious, ethnic, and linguistic cultures. This diversely localized aura lasted until the 1990s, when an information technology boom spawned rapid, poorly-managed urbanization. Today, Bangalore is bursting with its own teeming sprawl. Yet, the city still echoes with evocative memories of a former intimacy.

One aging local legend is Bread Mama (Uncle). “I remember him cycling around to deliver bread when I was 10,” my father would say reverently. My grandfather would recall him “delivering bread when I was a college student, when we were both younger men.” And my grandmother would add that she could remember him doling out bread during her first days in Bangalore as a young bride. Cheeky younger cousins would point to the Energizer Bunny on television and shout, “Bread Mama also goes and goes!”



Learning From My Neighbors: A Sikh’s Interfaith Journey 9 June , 2011

While growing up as a kid in northern India in the early 1980s, I fondly remember one of my best friends in high school, Sher Ali Khan. He was a devout Muslim.

While in 9th grade, Sher Ali called me over to his home for the Islamic festival of Eid. The food at the table was overflowing and beautifully decorated. But a dilemma faced me soon. All the meat on the table was halal — a special religious technique of preparation of meat in the Islamic faith that I as a Sikh was forbidden to eat, due to the Sikh Rehat Maryada (Principles of Sikh Living). So I chose to stay a silent vegetarian that day partaking only of vegetables and sweets.

A couple of months later, he was over at our home for dinner and we had cooked meat without any religious preparation. Since the meat was not halal, Sher Ali became a vegetarian for that meal.

At that time I thought that our religions were getting in the way of our friendship. But as I reflect on it now, it seems that we were learning how to negotiate our religious differences.




Egypt: Muslim and Christian Elders Work to Promote Interfaith Relations 16 May , 2011

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A group of Christian and Muslim Elders in Egypt are working to promote interfaith relationship and diffuse tension between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

One of the members of the group Wael Mohamed Saleh and member of the Islamist group Gamaa Islamiyah said that he and other Muslim peacemakers helped to avoid mayhem after a Muslim youth was severely beaten at the funeral of the Christian priest Anba Daoud Boutrous who was stabbed to death in February. He and other Muslim peacemakers had managed to convince an irate Muslim mob not to avenge the beating of the Muslim.

Madgy Maher, a Christian member of the group said that some of the mourners at the funeral of Anba Daoud Boutrous had identified the Muslim at the graveyard by his beard, a sign that he was a Muslim. When the Christian mourners began beating the Muslim, Maher tried to intervene, but the young Muslim was badly beaten.



Spiritual Expedition: Group Tours World Religion Centers 10 March , 2011

From the white marble of a Hindu temple gleaming in the sunset to the multicolored stained glass glowing in a Catholic cathedral, a San Angelo group saw a full spectrum of faiths in a tour of world religions at Houston this past week.

The whirlwind journey covered seven religions in three days, from March 5 to Monday.

“I think this trip just whetted our appetites,” Becky Benes, the trip organizer and a member of the interfaith San Angelo Peace Ambassadors, said.

At almost each stop the group of more than 20 people — including some from Wall, Houston and Abilene — would pile out of a rented tour bus or their own cars and visit temples, centers and churches for an hour or more, getting a lecture and receiving answers to general questions about the place or religion from a guide at the location.

Then the crew would rush to the next stop, under the overarching guidance of a world-renowned professor of comparative religion, Helen Rose Ebaugh.



BEGIN group celebrates faith differences 9 March , 2011

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Leaders of a diverse mix of local religious communities are striving to learn about each others’ faiths while growing stronger in their own.

The Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network, or BEGIN, brings together Christian, Baha’i, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim and Universalist faith leaders with a common goal: understanding.

“We don’t need to resolve our differences. It’s more important for us to find what we have in common, know where we’re different and do something positive with that,” said BEGIN convener the Rev. John Horner-Ibler of Cross of Life Lutheran Church.

Arleen Spanier, cantor of the reform Jewish Congregation Emanu-El, said, “The group is all about sharing with each other – ideas, spirituality and information that we can share with our congregations.”



From the Kansas City Star: Hindu Dedication May be a First 2 March , 2011

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I’ve visited the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Shawnee many times since the 1985 bhumi puja (groundbreaking ceremony), but the rite I witnessed Feb. 12 was different. In fact, participants from the Kansas City Bengali Association wondered if the event were unprecedented.

A statue created by an artist with a Christian heritage was venerated in an annual Hindu festival with Hindu priests accepting it and honoring the non-Hindu artist as well. No one knew of any such interfaith collaboration.

The Bengali Association’s Bhaswati Ray said, “I see this event as a bridge to open up our minds and to greet people from other cultures.”



From HuffPost: Brian D. McLaren: The Egyptian Revolution and Theological Reformation 16 February , 2011

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It’s risky to make historical comparisons. If we say, “This event is exactly the same as that event,” our comparison blinds us to the uniqueness of a historical moment. But if we say, “This event is in some ways like that event,” our comparison can help us see meaningful resonances and patterns of historical, theological, and spiritual significance.

I’ve heard a few folks offer comparisons regarding the amazing events that have unfolded in Egypt over the last few weeks, including the Tea Party (the original one in Boston, that is), the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the struggle against Apartheid. But I’ve been especially interested in comparisons to the Protestant Reformation.



From HuffPost: Rahim Kanani: An Interview With Ruth Turner of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation

In a recent interview with Ruth Turner, Chief Executive of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, we discussed the significance of World Interfaith Harmony Week, the work of the Faith Foundation, ways in which we can engage difference, and more.

Rahim Kanani: What was your reaction to the passing of the United Nations General Assembly resolution to recognize World Interfaith Harmony Week annually during the first week of February?

Ruth Turner: I think what is significant about this is the recognition by the UN that the world only really works if the issue of how different religions interact with each other and the secular world is not swept aside, but is proactively and positively addressed. Too often we put religion in the “too difficult box”. I can understand why. But it means so much to such great proportions of the world’s population that no matter how difficult it is to talk about religion, it’s dangerous not to. If we avoid tricky conversations, into that vacuum rush people who will distort ideas and convictions. Those who ferment religious extremism and prejudice have no hesitation about speaking out as loudly as they can, and claiming the dominance of their ideas. Why should the rest of us simply back off and leave them the stage? We need to hear a counter position. Having spoken to HRH Prince Ghazi, who with King Abdullah of Jordan was the instigator of this, I also appreciated the simplicity and directness of the idea. The silent majority need to speak up and counter the ignorance and the intolerance: this is a week when those voices of moderation, co-operation, open-mindedness and respect can all be heard together. I hope over time it will grow – with religious leaders everywhere knowing that at least once every year their congregations will expect to hear this message explicitly from them.